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Moon Pilot

Entry updated 3 January 2022. Tagged: Film.

Film (1962). Walt Disney Films (see The Walt Disney Company). Directed by James Neilson. Written by Maurice Tombragel, based on Starfire (19 March-2 April 1960 Saturday Evening Post as "Moon Pilot"; 1960; vt Moon Pilot 1962) by Robert Buckner. Cast includes Brian Keith, Tommy Kirk, Edmond O'Brien, Dany Saval, Kent Smith, Bob Sweeney and Thomas Tryon. 98 minutes. Colour.

After Charlie the chimpanzee makes a successful orbital flight around the Moon, Captain Richmond Talbot (Tryon) accidentally volunteers to become the first human to duplicate his mission. While on a brief leave to visit his mother and younger brother, Talbot begins running into a mysterious woman named Lyrae (Saval) who somehow knows about his upcoming Moon flight and insists that she has important information to give him. After Talbot successfully eludes the security officer, McClosky (O'Brien), assigned to guard him, Lyrae explains that she is an Alien from the planet Beta Lyrae, whose people wish to help humans conquer space; she gives Talbot a formula needed to protect his brain from "proton rays" during his flight and prevent him from going insane (like Charlie), and she proves her story is true by showing Talbot an image of his future son (with Lyrae). When Talbot returns to the base and is launched toward the Moon, Lyrae shows up in the capsule with him, and the lovers decide to take a side trip to Beta Lyrae, to see its seven moons, before Talbot returns to Earth.

While typical space comedies of the 1950s and 1960s featured comically inept amateurs who are launched into space due to various contrivances (e.g., Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars [1953], the Three Stooges in Have Rocket, Will Travel [1959], Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in The Road to Hong Kong [1962], Don Knotts in The Reluctant Astronaut [1967]), Moon Pilot features a trained, professional astronaut who seems comically inept, as Tryon's Talbot is depicted as cowardly, clumsy, and easily manipulated by everyone around him. This may have discomfited contemporary audiences, who were then idolizing America's brave, manly astronauts, and could help to explain why the film was not successful. Since so many sf films of the era involve aliens who are anxious to prevent primitive humans from venturing into space, it is also unusual to observe an alien race that is anxious to help humans succeed in mastering Space Flight; indeed, they seem determined to make humans their partners, both figuratively and literally (in the form of the future marriage of Talbot and Lyrae). Despite such novelties, however, this is for the most part a tedious, and a very Earthbound, comedy. [GW]


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